It’s International Women’s Day today. I have mixed feelings about that but it’s a good excuse to talk about an exceptional woman who was a true pioneer and ceiling smasher – Stella Cunliffe.
Stella Cunliffe was the first woman president of the Royal Statistical Society and that was not the only remarkable thing about her.
She was head girl (of course) and the first pupil from her school to go to university. During the second world war, working as a volunteer relief worker in Europe she was one of the first civilians to go to Belsen at the end of the war where she cared for prisoner’s in preparation for their release.
After the war, she worked at the Home Office and became the first woman Director of Statistics with the aim of making sure policy was (where ever possible) informed by statistics. Passionate about criminal justice she was a volunteer prison visitor and completed a global study to show capital punishment had absolutely no effect on reducing murder rates.
In her acceptance speech as President of the Royal Statistical Society she said that she hoped she was elected ‘primarily as a statistician who happens to be a woman‘
This quote from Stella Cunliffe inspires me. As well as a numbers person I’m a people person and this reminds me (when I’m churning through spreadsheets and data) that all the data points I’m looking at are telling me something about people and maybe in some small way the analysis of all this data will influence positive change in human lives.
If you’re interested in finding out more, this is a lovely article from the RSS celebrating the life of Stella Cunliffe.